July 2010


The next time you see raspberries, buy them. It does not matter how much they cost. I promise, you will want them to make this astonishing thing. It confirms my belief that brown sugar + broiler = heaven.

Berry my heart.

Confession: the only thing that kept me from eating the whole batch in one sitting was not the cup of sour cream involved, but the fact that I’d paid $4.50 for a half-pint of raspberries.

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This ceviche—which accompanied a delightful quinoa, avocado, and heart of palm salad—did not make me physically sick, although it’s possible it made me just a tad sick with worry.

The recipe I used, from Simply Recipes, is perfect. The fish was fully “cooked” and incredibly flavorful. I was not worried about the fish. Follow this recipe, and you will be amazed. The moral of the story is: do what Simply Recipes tells you, especially when it comes to raw fish.

My error—the one that gave me worry-pangs—began, as it often does, from lack of skills and misguided improvisation.  First, I had accidentally purchased a whole snapper, rather than snapper fillets. As it turns out, I have no idea how to properly skin and de-bone fish, so I ended up with, well, not that much fish. It was going to be a rather sad spoonful of ceviche unless I supplemented it. So, in a fit of genius, I decided to supplement the snapper with the frozen shrimp I keep in the freezer for just such emergencies. I thawed them out, chopped them up, and tossed them in with the fish.

The shrimp were my second mistake. Ceviche can indeed be made with shrimp.  As I learned after the fact, however, most recipes call for quickly cooking the shrimp—with actual heat—before putting them in their citric acid bath. In fact, while my raw shrimp were marinating away, I came across Simply Recipe’s separate recipe for shrimp ceviche, where she says: “While the acidic marinade ‘cooks’ the proteins, it doesn’t kill the bacteria. Whereas this isn’t as much of an issue with raw fish (think sushi, sashimi), it is with shellfish like shrimp and scallops which can go bad much more easily. Unless you are getting your shrimp straight off the boat, for food safety reasons it’s best to lightly pre-cook the shrimp.”

Oops.

Again, no harm done, and even my bacterial shrimp were delicious. But I’ve learned my lesson.

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Several years back, I went to Ecuador with two friends (one of whom was the lovely Grow Cook Brew). I left with a newfound appreciation of piranhas, boobies, the power of altitude to make you ill, and the power of citric acid to cook fish into delicious ceviche.

I made ceviche tonight, for the first time. It was delicious. But I won’t write about it here until I can confirm that it hasn’t made me sick.

Instead, I’m going to write about this salad, which I intended as a vaguely Andean accompaniment to the ceviche but which is fantastic all by itself. Even if it’s not as alchemical as citrus turning raw fish into ceviche, at least I can be fairly certain that it won’t make you sick.

Hola, quinoa!

I will update this post if there’s a salmonella outbreak in cans of hearts of palm.

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At the moment, I’m not very good at cooking meat. I hope that practice will make perfect, so I’m cooking a lot of steak. (There are worse things.) So I’m not going to say anything about how to cook the beef for this salad; it’s possible that mine was, um, a tad overdone.

HOWEVER.

The rest of the salad is awesome. It’s light and zingy and totally satisfying as a quick (low-heat!) summer meal. In the future I might try adding additional vegetal matter to beef (heh) it up a bit—maybe julienned mangoes or jicama. Any ideas?

There's the beef!

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As the weather cools, ever so slightly, back to normal sweltering July, it seems appropriate to highlight recipes that involve just the slightest application of heat, as opposed to no heat whatsoever. But no matter how hot it is outside, this tart is absolutely, no question, indubitably worth making. It is one of the most delicious things I have ever made, and the oven was only on for about 15 minutes.

The crust is amazing:

OMG the crust

The filling is amazing:

OMG the filling

And then you place ripe nectarines prettily on top.

OMG the nectarines

There is nothing not to love about this tart.

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This is another recipe for the I-can’t-stand-the-heat-but-want-to-be-in-the-kitchen files: a delightful, cool, simple meal. I think “summer rolls” must be called that because it’s way too hot to stand over a hot stove deep-frying them into spring rolls. Also, with their transparent skins, they look kind of naked; when it’s this hot, that sounds like an awfully good idea.

naked rolls

Summer rolls also have the advantage of being fun to assemble—you soak the rice paper in hot water until it softens, carefully transfer the now-transparent paper to your plate, spoon in the filling, bundle it all up, and dip away. I suppose you could also roll up a bunch in advance, but I much prefer doing it one at a time, savoring each as you go.

There’s something about these rolls that is also especially good with friends, perhaps because of the fun process of making them.  In this case, thanks to Dana, her summery plates, and her willingness to share a bottle of vinho verde.  Also, thanks to Alastair for first introducing me to the beauty of these—and a Pimm’s cup—on a hot summer day.

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It’s been hot. Really hot. Hot enough that any meal that doesn’t involve heat of any kind, be it stove, oven, or grill, is a winner in my book.

Here, all you have to do is dump the ingredients in a food processor:

and 30 seconds later:

dinner is served. If you want to get more elaborate about things, you can quickly saute some shrimp or scallops to add in, and then dinner might take five whole minutes. Be advised, though, that cooking the shrimp or scallops might involve minimal application of heat. (more…)